Organisations move towards greater transparency
Congratulations to the 18 organisations who published their spending information on Friday 1st June 2012 to an internationally agreed common standard, the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).
The move comes as part of the requirements that their funder, the Department for International Development (DFID), has placed on many of its fundees to become more open and transparent.
An ever-increasing trend
This latest wave of publishing follows a rapidly expanding movement. Recent publishers to IATI include Oxfam, The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and CAFOD, along with government donors such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and The Netherlands.
Since February 2011, 45 organisations have published their information to IATI, with more working towards releasing their data.
The many benefits of transparency
Transparency has many benefits. By publishing their information in this way, organisations are ensuring it can be used, compared and re-purposed to meet many different needs.
Studies have shown that when aid recipients are able to access data about the services they have been promised, they are more able to hold service providers to account. This, in turn, improves the provision of services they receive.
And there are benefits for publishers too. The commitment to publish encourages organisations to improve their internal systems. This ensures that data is more detailed, accurate and timely. Organisations that have already published acknowledge that because the data will become public, they focus on making it more accurate and accessible.
A simplified process
The process of publishing this data has been simplified through the use of the online platform AidStream.
AidStream enables those wishing to publish aid data to IATI to do so easily, whilst hiding the complexities and technicalities of raw data. Once registered on the system, organisations are able to enter their data, store it, make changes to it and publish it in the IATI Registry.
There’s more to come
This current publication of data is a good thing, but there is still a way to go. For this information to be fully useful to aid recipients in developing countries, it needs to cover where all funds for development are coming from, not just those from one donor (such as DFID).
This information will come with time. In April 2013, more organisations, including most of the larger ones funded by DFID, are required to begin publishing their information on a quarterly basis. In the not too distant future, we expect to see more organisations and donors publishing their information in this format. This will increase the quality of all IATI data, improving its usefulness to those key stakeholders.
While the data currently published is available in xml format, it will become more accessible with time. IATI data is open, standardised and machine readable. This means that technical users can convert it into databases, spreadsheets, web applications, printed documents or data visualisations.
And as the amount of IATI data increases, information intermediaries will develop new applications that will help users access IATI information in ways that are meaningful to them.
This process has already begun; the IATI Data Explorer allows you to choose specific sets of aid activities to view in depth. The Guardian Global Development website has a helpful array of visualisations based on donor’s data. And keep an eye out for AidView in the coming months, our new IATI data platform.
We’re now at the stage where we need to start using this data effectively, so that it can have a real impact on the lives of aid beneficiaries. The applications mentioned above play a big part in all of this, but we need to go further to ensure that this step towards transparency can result in more effective aid.
To view the raw xml data, visit the IATI registry.